Lisa Sthalekar: All hail the Caribbean spirit for a successful World T20

Lisa Sthalekar
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Lisa Sthalekar: All hail the Caribbean spirit for a successful World T20

Australia are the defending champions. © ICC

At the end of twelve entertaining days of cricket, featuring the world's best, there was only ever going to be one winner, Australia. However as we all leave the sun, beaches and music of the Caribbean you feel that more was accomplished than just a cricket tournament. So many locals that came to the matches or followed around the world on TV are now converts to the women's game for life.

Now that is how you should judge tournament – West Indies 2018 was a success.

On the field the Australian team claimed their fourth World Twenty20 title, ensuring the tag of favourites was justified. Their opposition, traditional rivals, England had fought their way into the final but were outclassed by a side who were reeling from their previous early exists from the last two world events.

Whilst England didn't have the greatest build up to this tournament, missing key players and not all their senior players firing, it did highlight the finalist are two countries that invest heavily into the women's game.

Both the semifinal matches, played on the same pitch on the same day, were extremely challenging. A tennis ball bounce meant the natural stroke-play of all the top batters had to be in check as the ball kicked out of the surface.

What was evident in both matches and right across the World T20 was that there are some sides that stick to a certain way to play the game. Where it be these teams don't have the skill to be able to adapt to changes or aren't quick enough to adapt meant that Windies weren't able to defend their title. And India who started to the competition so well, by beating New Zealand and Australia in the round matches meant that they weren't able to make their second consecutive ICC final.

Interestingly it was the second semifinal that sent Indian fans into frenzy. It wasn't just that they lost to England, but it was the fact that India had left out Mithali Raj, the Sachin Tendulkar of the women's game.

Whether you agree with the decision or not, the most pleasing aspect for me was that people where aware of the decision and voicing their opinions through social media. It wasn't that long ago that similar situations have occurred and gone unnoticed, indicating that fans of the game are now educated enough on the women's game to have these points of views.

In the final, it was Australia who overpowered England, despite their worst fielding performance in many years. Playing in the prime time slot of 8pm at night, both teams encountered dew, moisture forming on the outfield due to the humid conditions of Antigua which created the ball to be like a bar soap. Players struggled to grip the ball when bowling and fielding, slipping in their hands. Certainly an aspect of the women's game that will have to improve if they want to play at prime time.

England surprisingly chose to bat first, given that their top order hadn't fired all tournament except in the semifinal when they were chasing a low total, plus the dew factor was always going to get worse.

Despite the poor fielding by Australia, they were still able to pick up regular wickets, which meant that no decent partnerships were formed and a well below target was set. Georgia Wareham was the player that got things going in the right direction for Australia, when she affected the run out of Amy Jones and was able to pick up two wickets in the consecutive deliveries to stop any fight back from the English.

As for the run chase, it was Alyssa Healy, the Player of the Tournament and leading run scorer that ensured early momentum went to the Australian's when she hit 14 runs off Anya Shrubsole first over. Whilst Healy wasn't there at the end, it was youngster, Ashleigh Gardner playing in her first ICC final that stole the show depositing three sixes in her Player of the Match performance to finish with 33 off 26 balls, to go along with her 3 for 22.

The amount of relief and sheer joy was evident on the Meg Lanning's face as she hit the winning run and celebrated the victory with a huge leap in the air and an emotional embrace with her teammates. The fact that Australia exited the last two World event without a trophy made this victory the sweetest of them all.

During the tournament there was only one close match that finished in the last over, but there were individual performances that stood out and will no doubt give those players the confidence moving forward and inspire their teammates to reach similar heights.

All I know is that the next T20 World Cup in 2020 in Australia now has the platform to take the game to even a greater height because of what was achieved here in the West Indies.

Lisa Sthalekar's team of the tournament:

  1. Alyssa Healy (wk) - 225 runs

  2. Smriti Mandhana - 178 runs

  3. Deandra Dottin - 121 runs, 10 wickets

  4. Harmanpreet Kaur (c) - 183 runs

  5. Ashleigh Gardner - 90 runs, 10 wickets

  6. Javeria Khan - 136 runs

  7. Ellyse Perry - 60 runs, 9 wickets

  8. Megan Schutt - 10 wickets

  9. Anya Shrubsole - 7 wickets

  10. Kirstie Gordon - 8 wickets

  11. Poonam Yadav - 8 wickets

  12. Jahanara Alam - 6 wickets (12th)